Israel-European Cooperation on Defeating Extremism – Saad Amrani

, March 26, 2018

On March 19, 2018, Saad Amrani, Chief Commissioner of the Belgian Federal Police, addressed a conference on “Israel-Europe Relations: A New Paradigm,” organized by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

With regard to Israeli-European cooperation, the spectrum is pretty wide, and I think there is a lot to be done. It has been said by the ambassador of the EU in Israel today that there are different issues on which we could go ahead and go deeper in our cooperation model. I believe in exposure – exposure through concrete projects where people get to meet each other, professionals. I’m speaking about the law enforcement aspect. You can have it also in the economic aspect, but let’s speak, for example, about law enforcement projects. There are things to be shared. A lot of knowledge has been developed in Israel over the last decades that we could use, and any local knowledge that has been developed in Europe. So obviously there are opportunities that we can take advantage of.

On the other hand, ignorance feels and feeds prejudice. So there is a lot of misunderstanding on both sides of the Mediterranean Sea, I would say, and by fostering more exchanges and concrete projects between professionals I think we can achieve dealing with issues of prejudice and misunderstandings. So I strongly believe in that. With regard to the issue that you have framed as the issue of Muslims in Europe, there is no such thing as an issue of Muslims in Europe. Generalizations are not good, just like there is no issue of Israelis or the Jewish community at large. There is an issue with a very limited amount of individuals and organizations and associations that foster prejudice and that preach hatred. They are identifiable as well, and we need to work with the moderates and promote their role in a global approach, which has not been really done in the last decades to promote the moderates. So now the time has come to be a little bit more aggressive and more creative and disruptive in that regard and build the bridges with those positive forces that do exist in Europe in order to actually fight against what I call the “software.” What is the software? That is to say the ideological negative trends that we have witnessed developing, and not only in Europe but also in Israel and other countries. In North Africa, for example, we have also issues of terrorism. It all boils down to the same negative software that has been developed through specific networks. Now the time has come to address it collectively in different countries, and I think the cooperation between the EU and Israel in that regard can be very fruitful. This will help once again neutralize and mitigate the risks that do exist. They do not include all the Muslim community, just a specific portion.

By working surgically, I think we can create a positive momentum and indeed bring onboard those positive forces that are actually waiting for one thing – for organizations, governments, to reach out to them. Definitely Brussels is a safe place today.  We have made a lot of progress. We have learned a lot, not only from the Paris attacks, but also the Brussels attacks. The security apparatus has been completely remodified, and I had to insist on that one. This government has done a fantastic job by giving the Belgian police and security services at large the means that they need. They have done a tremendous effort, and we would really want to insist on that one and thank them for doing this effort. Without their help, we wouldn’t have been able to make all the progress that we have made up until now. Of course, once again, there is no such thing as a zero risk, and I think we have seen it in different countries. Take the example of New York City. Despite the billions of dollars that they have invested in security, they still had this terrorist attack that took place in Manhattan with this Uzbek terrorist who had not been detected in his own community. So this gives me an opportunity to underline the nature of the work that we are doing in Belgium right now, which is focused on grassroots intelligence and work with the local police department and the local partners, who can help detect those who are not in databases and are not known internationally and specifically.

About Saad Amrani

Saad Amrani is a Chief Commissioner of the Belgian Federal Police.